This week we’ve got more survival lessons from the Gulf oil spill, some interesting news from the State Department, how IRAs figure into preparedness, how to get a legal $15 silencer for your .308 without needing to pay for a tax stamp, and how YOU can get a FREE set of Urban Survival Playing Cards.
Gas Pockets in the Gulf
This week, there has been a lot of talk about “daily average” and “peak” Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) levels on the gulf coast. Specifically, on July 4th, the EPA average readings on Grand Isle were 5.47 ppm. This number IS bad, but doesn’t really mean anything. In fact, it’s completely meaningless.
First of all, VOCs represent a very wide group of compounds that are toxic at different levels. Ideally, you don’t want to breathe any of them, but simply saying that the VOC concentration was 5.47 ppm doesn’t really mean much unless it’s broken down to concentrations of individual compounds. As an example, the exposure limits for benzene range from .1 ppm to 1ppm, but toluene is much safer and has exposure limits of 200-500 ppm, depending on exposure time.
The second reason that the number that the EPA is reporting doesn’t really mean anything has application no matter where you live because of how chemical/biological “incidents” play out.
I bet you can think of a time when you were standing near a campfire and eventually needed to move because the wind changed direction and the air got too smokey. If you would have written down how easy the air was to breathe every minute from the time you picked your spot until you had to move because the smoke got too thick, chances are good that the “average” air quality would have been fine.
But averages don’t mean anything with toxins moving through the air. I discuss this in the Chemical & Biological Accident/Attack section of the http://SurviveInPlace.com course, but the way that toxins move through the air in a chemical attack is very similar to how they’re moving through the air in the Gulf.
The toxins move in clouds that have a higher concentration of toxins than the surrounding air…kind of like billows of smoke or clouds in the sky.
Here’s an example I know you can relate to. Think about someone “breaking wind” in a large crowded room. The average air quality of the room will probably remain very good. But the people who happen to be breathing in a high concentration of toxins don’t really care what the “average” air quality is. All they care about is the quality of the pocket of air that they happen to breathing at that instant. I’m not trying to make light of what’s happening in the Gulf. I just want to be clear about why “average” numbers don’t mean anything when it comes to toxins in the air.
So, back to the Gulf. What happened on Grand Isle on July 4th is that two of the VOC readings for the day were 16.1 ppm and 10.7 ppm…those concentrations are generally considered very bad. Anyone who happened to be breathing in as those clouds blew through may have felt it…especially if the clouds were high in benzene or they happened to be one of the millions of people who are extra sensitive to VOCs.
As I talk about in the course, these “clusters” of high concentration can actually work in our favor during a chemical or biological incident. The fact that toxins aren’t mixed perfectly means that a worst case scenario, as practiced by first responders, is very unlikely to happen. One recent event that proved this out was the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in 1995.
In that attack, well funded terrorist group, Aum Shinrikyo, used enough sarin to kill tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people but ended up injuring fewer than 1,000 and killing only 13.
So here’s the big takeaway. In a post-disaster situation, you need to dig into the information you’re being fed to see if it is true and if it applies to you. In this case, the average daily VOC levels don’t mean anything unless you are able to stop breathing every time a toxic cloud rolls through. And if the situation is serious, as it is for cleanup workers and residents in the Gulf, make darn sure that you or someone you trust does some digging to make sure that the “evidence” being presented to you to tell you that you’re not in danger is credible.
(more on the Gulf at the end…and a chance to win a set of Urban Survival Playing Cards)
$450 Price Increase to Renounce / Relinquish US Citizenship
In an interesting move this week, the State Department raised the fee for renouncing US citizenship from $0 to $450! They have been relatively quiet about why they did this, but one of the likely reasons are an increasing number of expatriates renouncing their US citizenship. These are people who haven’t lived in the US for years and are tired of paying taxes to fund an out of control government. Remember, since there’s a $1.5 TRILLION dollar budget deficit for 2010 and only ~150-200 million US taxpayers, the IRS has to suck roughly $7,500 extra, on average, from each US taxpayer.
The other is a group on the FBI terrorist watchlist that I linked to a few weeks back that has it’s members renounce their citizenship and stop paying taxes, but keep living in the US and use all the infrastructure and services.
If you are interested in the logistics of relocating to another country as a possible alternative survival option, let me know by commenting on the blog or emailing me. If enough people show an interest, I’ll get some people I know who have renounced their citizenship to do an interview and let me know why and how they made the move.
I have friends ask me about this a few times a month and it’s a VERY complex and emotional topic, but one that is worth exploring for some people. Opinions range from calling it pragmatic to anti-patriotic and from running away to strategic retreat. It’s definitely not cut and dry or a one-size-fits-all solution.
401 (k)s, IRAs, Roths, & other qualified plans.
About 12-13 years ago, I had a revelation about retirement plans. I got to thinking that if I was in the government, it would be great to have a way to save up money for when the baby boomers stopped paying into social security and started taking money out.
Since we all know that the government spends everything it can get it’s hands on and more, it didn’t make sense to take in extra tax dollars in the 90s to cover a future need. Besides…the government has been a historically bad investor. MUCH worse than the common man.
So, what if the government could get average ordinary citizens to invest all of those “extra” tax dollars that the government didn’t need right away for a decade or two until the government DOES need the money. It would be like a savings account for the Treasury Department…and they wouldn’t even need to manage it.
Well, that’s exactly what has happened with qualified retirement plans. Nothing is written in stone with them, and the IRS can change the rules at will to suit their needs and wishes. They can change when you can get your money, how much you can take out per year, force you to take money out, AND they can change the tax rate that you have to pay when you do access your money.
In fact, there are so many restrictions on retirement plans that in many ways I feel that it’s REALLY the Treasury’s account and, if I’m lucky, they’ll give me permission to use some of it some day.
That’s why we don’t fund our retirement accounts in the years when we have the ability to. All of the tax benefits and projections are intoxicating on paper, but it just gives up too much control for our taste. For us, we’re more comfortable giving up our pound of flesh right away and using the fruits of our labor as we wish, when we wish.
I bring this up because one of the most likely survival scenarios that we face in America is a severe economic depression. At some point, it would be wise to sit down with a local preparedness minded financial advisor and see if it makes sense to keep locking up additional money in retirement plans. You should also ask them about IRS code 72(t) that allows you to take money out of your retirement plan before retirement without any penalties.
A VERY important note on this…if you’re married and your spouse isn’t on board with preparedness, don’t even think about bringing this up. All it will do is cause bitterness and frustration. I don’t have a crystal ball and we may look back when we’re in our 60s and really regret not funding our retirement accounts for longer than we did. There’s just no way to know for sure what will happen in the future and this conversation isn’t worth having when you could spend the same amount of time and energy getting your spouse on board with general preparedness.
I’ve got to say that none of what I say should be taken as financial advice. I don’t know your particular situation and you should always consult with a qualified advisor before making financial decisions.
Sell Your Extra Cloak and Buy a Sword
Back in May (http://secretsofurbansurvival.com/107/food-storage-for-churches-nashville-drunken-pirates/) I mentioned a verse from Luke…where Jesus told His disciples to go sell their extra cloaks and buy a sword if they didn’t have one.
It’s amazing how often people have asked me about that since then. I didn’t mention the location of the verse at the time and I still get emails asking me what it was…in fact, I got another one this week. The main confusion came from the fact that I used the word “tunic” instead of “cloak” and people searching online couldn’t find it. Well, here’s the verse: Luke 22:36 It’s a great verse that’s part of an even greater chapter that includes the Last Supper, through Jesus’ arrest, and up to standing before Pilate and Herod. It’s worth it to read what Jesus says about the sword in context…in fact, it’s kind of a mind bender and I encourage you to read it.
Al Shabaab Begins Attacks Outside of Somalia
On Sunday, the Somali Islamic terrorist group, called Al Shabaab, completed their first terrorist attack outside of Somalia, killing 76 people at two cafes in Kampala, Uganda who were watching the World Cup on TV.
This is the same group I’ve told you about before (http://secretsofurbansurvival.com/255/somali-terror-group-al-shabaab-in-the-us/) that has a history of killing aid workers, peace activists, and journalists in Somalia.
More importantly to stateside Americans, this is the group that has been sneaking into the US with the help of Mexican drug smugglers and actively recruiting members in the US to train for Jihad both here and back in Somalia.
$15 “Silencer” For Your .308 With NO Tax Stamp!
I got my latest “Sportsman’s Guide” catalog this week and they’ve got a very neat little “tool” that will let you shoot .32 ACP ammo through bolt action .308s (and a few other .30 caliber rifles).
They’re called “sub caliber sleeves” or “rifle chamber inserts.” I’ve got a handfull of these little treasures and they have a few important uses for preppers.
To begin with, when you shoot a .32 ACP through a .308 barrel, the report is MUCH quieter than with a .308…almost like using a silencer. Next, if you’re training someone to shoot a high powered rifle, it’s less expensive to shoot .32 ACP than .308 and there’s almost no recoil. The last major benefit I’ll cover is meat damage. It should be obvious, but if you shoot small game with a .32 ACP, there will be a lot less meat destroyed than if you make the same shot with a .308.
Win a set of Urban Survival Playing Cards!
I’ve got a challenge for you…In my continual quest to help people see beyond the numbers that they’re being fed by the media, I want to offer you a challenge.
One of the stories floating around the internet is that “BPs head doctor has admitted that 1,500 cleanup workers have been sickened from the cleanup efforts.” Every one of these stories is misquoting and misrepresenting the doctor and I’m challenging you to explain why the statement is factually wrong. Post your reasons why this statement is wrong by commenting below.
As a note, I am NOT saying that conditions are safe on the gulf. What I’m saying is that reporters and writers are twisting, mis-stating, and distorting simple facts.
Next Friday, I’ll announce my pick for the best answer, send them their set of Urban Survival Playing Cards, and post my answer! Check back on the blog through the week to see others’ responses.
If you haven’t been to the forum in awhile, you should check out Henre’ Neville’s latest article on preparing “salvaged” water barrels for long term storage. You can read it here: http://secretsofurbansurvival.com/entry.php?34-12-Preparing-Water-Barrels-11-July-2010
Thanks for the feedback from everyone who took advantage of last week’s offer to get a free copy of “How To Detect Lies and Liars” from USCCA, the free tactical fitness videos from TACFIT, and those of you who bought some of the advanced copies of “Urban Survival Guide” on CD. In case you missed any of them, here are the links:
http://surviveinplace.com/indexabf.php << only 24 sets left at the introductory price!
Until next week!
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P.P.S. Here are some links you might be interested in from this week’s newsletter:
EPA master list of VOCs: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/base/voc_master_list.html
You can pick up the sub caliber sleeves at http://SportsmansGuide.com
Anti Defimation League on Al Shabaab: http://www.adl.org/terrorism/symbols/al_shabaab.asp.